While it’s often reported that people die from being trampled to death in crowd stampedes, in reality, according to Fruin, the cause of death is almost always compressive asphyxia, or essentially, having your torso squeezed so tightly that you can’t breathe. There are two likely scenarios for how this might occur. Because people are so tightly jammed together, in a sense they are holding each other up. When one person falls, it makes a hole and someone who may have been leaning on that person is then pushed on top, and on and on.
According to the Fruin, at the Ibrox Park Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland incident in 1971 when 66 people were asphyxiated, the pile of bodies was 10 feet high. Fruin wrote, “at this height, people on the bottom would experience chest pressures of [800-900 pounds] assuming half the weight of those above was concentrated in the upper body area.”
The other situation is when people are killed where they stand as a result of being pushed against from every side. Fruin describes The Who concert in Cincinnati in 1979 where several bodies were found 30 feet from a wall near the entryway, as indicating, “that crowd pressures probably came from both directions as rear ranks pressed forward and front ranks pushed off the wall.”